THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and ROY BUDD.

                                    A personal appreciation by John Williams.

(Many thanks to John for sharing his thoughts with us, MMI)

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This Autumn, October 8 to be precise, a very special Musical event will be held in London. The Capital has never been short of special occasions, many great musical premieres have been presented to an eager public within the short space that qualifies as West End and surrounding Concert Halls. The Proms themselves have been responsible for many fine new renderings, but none quite this one to be held in the very special ambience of London Coliseum. Well over twenty years after it was first written. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will be premiered with music by Roy Budd.

 

This was Roy’s last work, one that was close to his heart, and indeed one he spent a great deal of time on, prior to his tragic and untimely death in 1993. It was indeed due to be performed at the Barbican only five weeks after he passed away. Now thanks to the efforts of Mishka Productions, those notes written on score sheets all those years ago will finally burst to life with full Symphony Orchestra bringing Roy’s music to life, and how apt, not in the overly big and impersonal RAH, but in The London Coliseum, not a million miles away from the original setting on Paris Opera House.

 

 

 

 

For those more used to the somewhat modern, and jazzy tones of GET CARTER, and the wild jazz cum big band sounds of Michael Winner’s THE STONE KILLER (now for readers in the U.K. available on Blu Ray with Roy’s score isolated – free from all the dialogue – I know you miss a lot of nuances sans dialogue, but isn’t this the most brilliant way to listen to film scores? ) anyway, I digress, PHANTOM is a large Symphonic work, not quite heard before in Roy’s outstanding oeuvre, but listening to it, there are indeed, signs of the great man, the way he used the horns, and the way he combines themes, without reverting to Hollywood 30s style of music for every individual. Sure, the themes are there, but the way they are orchestrated, the seams just blend into each other with apparent ease. One can see how Roy was proud of this work, and we are indeed that he did record it for us to hear at home.

 

 

Obviously considering the Films location, it opens with solo organ, which segues into the Main Credits, now we here the PHANTOM theme in all its glory, and I wonder if I am not the only one, to think this is miles away from traditional music for, I suppose it could be called a horror story. It is without doubt, a love story with very tragic overtones. and I think Roy felt that the music for the Phantom should be imbued with humanity. It is indeed a theme that stays with you. Following the Main Credits, we see the Paris Opera House in a distant shot, Roy’s produces another them, a fanfare no less, worthy of Rozsa. Again, the orchestration is clear and transparent, (Did Hugo Friedhofer once say he like to hear the music breathe?) As the Curtain parts, a ballet troupe dance their number before the main event, Here Roy lightens the score for a delightful almost playful cue as the film progresses.

 

This is not a cue by cue description, just to show what a master work it is, yet, sorry, I must mention around 50 minutes into the film a love scene between Raoul and Christine by the Seine, a lovely exquisite theme that is sensitively done, in fact, my wife, hearing this remarked how lovely it was. Sadly, it doesn’t last long, for the phantom is viewing them from one of the bridges and not to put to finer point on it, is not pleased. What Roy does is always informs us via his masterly score that was well as being a tragedy, it is a love story and he walks the fine line of never over balancing, so we as the cinema audience are kept informed without being telegraphed what is going to happen, the bane of many a poor score.

Roy Conducting

 

I said at the beginning this was a personal appreciation of Roy. Much has been written on his music, by me as well over the years, and it makes no sense to go over his great scores. We all have our favourites, and I am sure yours’s will be different to mind. I rate PAPER TIGER very highly indeed, but maybe that’s because I have a weakness for scores with an Oriental flavour. Here Roy masterly merges full Orchestra – National Philharmonic no less- with instrumentalists to convey the locale. If it brings to mind Jerry Goldsmith, that is no handicap. It might remind one of Goldsmith, but it is Roy Budd 100%.

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Good song as well sung by the Ray Conniff Singers. Whilst THE WILD GEESE has got it’s admirers, me as well I hasten to say, I have a fondness for WILD GEESE 2. Not so symphonic, more if this is the right word, off the wall, and certainly a terrific listening experience away from the film. Lastly many would have come out of the Cinema after watching WHO DARES WINS, with Roy’s pulsating theme in their head. Here his music moves the film where dialogue or sound effects would not have worked. Brilliant!!

I think I first spoke to Roy when I was organising a Seminar for the Goldsmith Society. One composer, Stanley Myers had to drop out virtually on the day to go to the States, in desperation I rung Roy, and he at a moment’s notice turned up – NFT I think, but it’s a long time ago – and was, with due deference to the other composers’ present, the hit of the afternoon, informative, witty, always courteous. I was deeply impressed I spoke to him quite a few times over the phone -once I think for a special on Michael Winner – and he was always friendly and never rushed me off. I find that that many of the true talents, with their feet on the ground, you could speak to straight away, without going through secretaries or PR’S. Stanley Myers and Michael Kamen also come to mind.

 

The last time I saw him was at a Film Music magazine function in London. Again, he was enormously friendly, and what I liked, would always put you at ease. I can’t say for sure, but I think it was only a few weeks before he passed away

I like to think he was a friend, I liked him tremendously and whilst over the years I met many composers, and some I still know now, Roy was special, and I still miss him. Just to ring him up and ask something, there always, seemed to be a smile in his voice, and that is truly something special

His music is always with us, CDS, Blu Ray’s and frequently on Television. But PHANTOM is different. This isn’t going to come up very often, so I urge anyone with an interest in the genius of Roy Budd and who can be in London this October, to book your ticket now. No, I am not on the pay of the Coliseum, I just want the Hall to be full of enthusiasts who appreciate what Roy did with his last work, and so you can say later, I was there!!!

 

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HANS MAY, UNSUNG HERO OF THE SILVER SCREEN.

 

Composer Hans May, was born as Johannes Mayer on July 11th,1886, in Vienna, Austria.
Although at the time it was referred to as Austro/Hungaria. He left his native Vienna after the Nazis began to take power at first settling in France and eventually heading for the shores of England in 1936 after his Jewish roots began to put him in danger from the Nazis. The composer was known mainly at the beginning of his career for writing songs, many of which became popular and firm favourites throughout Europe. He also composed original scores for silent movies in both Berlin and Paris, and was much in demand for this during the mid-1920, s through to the 1930, s. He visited England in 1930, but at this time focused primarily upon the scoring of German pictures and projects. With the advent of the talkies and sound the composer came into his own and would often work on films that were operettas, or musicals, he re-located to France in the latter part of 1934, and worked on THE MAYERLING in 1935. His career was successful within the area of writing music for film, albeit mainly for shorts and musicals and after settling in London in the late 1930,sthe composer began to write for more and more feature length films and reached his creative and most prolific peak during the 1940,s, working on a varied collection of motion pictures which were produced by The Boulting Brothers and Rank/Gainsborough Pictures, most notably THE WICKED LADY and the classic motion picture BRIGHTON ROCK in 1947.

But it was his score for THUNDER ROCK in 1942 that attracted attention to the composer, the movie which was a Boulting Brothers production, starred Michael Redgrave, James Mason and Barbara Mullen, and was a psychological thriller/fantasy. By the summer of 1944, the composer was employed by The Rank Organisation, which was at the time the largest production company in England. May scored a long line of highly successful and popular movies, one of the first being THE MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS in 1944.

 

Which was the film that established him as one of the leading figures in film scoring and one of the Fathers of the British Golden age of music for the cinema. The composer was granted permission by the British Government to continue to work in his chosen career during the dark days of the second world war and as the war came to an end could continue writing music for movies that were produced by British companies. His career continued through to the 1950, s and he was responsible for not only writing film scores but also for collaborating with various lyricists on many songs and for co-writing musicals such as the west end show, WEDDING IN PARIS (1954), which was a great success on the London stage with actor Anton Walbrook in the lead role. He also returned to scoring movies in his homeland and worked on a handful of German productions in the late 1950, s.

 

It was not until 1957 that the composer returned to the European continent and resumed writing for both film and stage productions. His first scoring assignment being in his own place of birth Austria when he scored the movie, DER KAISER UND DAS WASCHERMADEL. There is no doubt if the composer had been born some four decades earlier he would have become an important figure within the Viennese operetta golden age, his style being very similar and evocative of some of his older contemporaries such as FERENCZ LEHAR and EMMERICH KALMAN. Let us not forget that May was responsible for some of the most successful German language songs from the 1930, s such as ES WIRD IM LEBEN DIR MEHR GENOMMEN ALS GEGEBEN in 1936 and EIN LIED GEHT UM DIE WELT in 1933.

 

 

 

He was truly a composer for all genres and was easily able to turn his talents of composition and orchestration to film, and adapting and creating wonderful pieces for both stage and musical theatre. Hans May was not only an incredibly gifted composer and a talented musician, but during the 1920, s was also a performer. During the 1950, s, the composer’s health began to deteriorate, and he passed away on January 2nd, 1959 in the South of France.

 

 

47 METERS DOWN.

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Composing duo TOMANDANDY ( Tom Hajdu and Andy Milburn)  have over the past few years contributed many scores to movies that have mainly been within the horror or sci fi genres, MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, THE HILLS HAVE EYES, KILLING ZOE and THE COVENANT among them, all of which benefitted from the atmospheric and at times virulent sounds that they have created.  Their latest offering is from the shark infested underwater thriller 47 METERS DOWN. This is a movie that follows in the footsteps of JAWS and its many imitators or at least big screen incarnations of blood thirsty killer sharks that would tear your arm off if given a chance, the movie is one of those oh my god I cant watch please tell me what’s happening films, and then you realise the person you are watching it with are also covering their eyes. The score is like the bulk of the works of TOMANDANDY electronic or synthesised, however although I am not a fan of sounds rather than music being utilised on a soundtrack to enhance or underline the action or create the tension required I do like several of the past works of this composing duo, and there are certain electronic scores or soundtracks that have not only serviced the movies that were written for well, but have also managed to gain popularity away from the images, I suppose it’s down to individual taste when it comes to film music, you either like synthetic scores or you don’t. Recently they worked on ONCE UPON which contained a score that again was dominated by synthetics but contained some beguiling and haunting melodies which emanated from and around a rather unsettling four note music box theme. 47 METERS DOWN is somewhat different, these are sounds or is it a soundscape? Rather than actual melodies, but in a way they are just as riveting and alluring as the melodic content of WISH UPON, of course miles apart musically speaking, because 47 METERS DOWN is forebodingly dark and tantalisingly tense with cues that are slow burning affairs that build into full blown dramatic filled pieces, which create an atmosphere that is at times chaotic and frenzied, it is a soundtrack that also contains its quieter moments, but even these interludes which are few and far between are thrown into disarray without any warning by an invasion of heart arresting jagged crashes and collisions of sounds that certainly grab the attention of the listener, It is a soundtrack that is quite cleverly written, as I say the quieter moments are torn apart and basically attacked by searing and aggressive sounding stabs and crashes, much like a shark would attack without warning and at great speed.

 

 

 

 

It is a score for a horror movie, so I was not expecting any lush strings or melancholy themes at all, it is also a soundtrack that enhances and supports the action, horror and adds much to the atmospherics of the film. If, however, you are looking for John Williams or anything remotely melodious or pleasantly lilting tone poems, boy have you got a surprise. Atonal, stressful and disturbing. The final cue of the soundtrack ACCENT, is probably the less tense example of the score, it is kind of uplifting and gives one a feeling or sense that the danger is gone the horror could be over and we are seeing the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

DUNKIRK.

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I was not intending to write a review of this soundtrack, but after trying to listen to it a few times I decided that maybe it should be written. DUNKIRK the movie is quite brilliant, director Nolan I think has got it right and the way in which he approaches the subject matter and shoots the actual story is impeccable and affecting. The score however is yet again another disappointment, Hans Zimmer once again has created a soundscape rather than a musical score, because musical it cannot be called or labelled. The composer utilises musical and unmusical sounds at times to create his soundtrack, but although at times the sounds are effective within the context of the film I found it a distraction rather than supporting the proceedings. Zimmer is without a doubt a talented man, and I get so frustrated about the way in which many film music collectors put him on a pedestal as if everything the man has done is filled with brilliance, yes there have been a few scores that have hit the mark both in the films and away from them BACKDRAFT for example, GLADIATOR another such example. The soundtrack for DUNKIRK was another case of a missed opportunity in my opinion and yes before you all shout it I do realise film scoring has changed since the days of 633 SQUADRON, WHERE EAGLES DARE and BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER KWAI, but would it have hurt to include a few bars that bared some resemblance to a march or an inspiring or patriotic sounding theme. As I say within the context of the movie Zimmer’s efforts work to a degree.  they build the tension and also create the stressed atmosphere and the feeling of hopelessness but. this is not music. One of the longest cues on the soundtrack is SUPERMARINE which I have to admit I dislike with a vengeance, it is grating and perplexing, repeat, repeat ,ad nauseum.  I get the use of the  ticking clock, but that’s a sound that has been utilised many times in film scores by the likes of Morricone, Zimmer’s sounds on this film are for me a nightmare and also an experience that I will not repeat ever I do not think. Make up  your own mind.as this review like all others is a personal opinion, but film music this is not, it’s more like one of those odd dance tracks that everyone raves about says how great it is, but never actually dances to it because it’s just too weird and so they never buy it and rave on about it because they think it’s COOL to do so. Zimmer as always was not alone in this venture, two other composers are credited Lorne Balfe and Benjamin Wallfisch, but I cannot hear anything different or original within their cues that sets them apart from the rest of this soundtrack, it just grates on and on, never really getting anywhere, apart from the end two tracks in which Edward Elgar is also credited, and in which we can just about pick out his Nimrod composition. which is heavily masked by the electronics of Zimmer and Balfe, sorry don’t like it, and if Christopher Nolan is to direct a Bond movie, please, please, please no Hans Zimmer. If that ever happens I will start collecting blown light bulbs.

CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, THE FIRST EPIC MOVIE.

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DUN DUN DAHHHHHHH its CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, no not me, the movie, although hang on maybe if I, ummm well maybe not,,,,. Faster than a speeding train, braver than anything you can think of and sillier than most things, that is CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS, BUT, what a fantastic movie, a laugh a minute it is great. If you are feeling fed up or just grumpy go watch this film it has such a wonderful formula and presence about it which if bottled would I think be a brilliant tonic to cheer everyone everywhere up. The music for this animated feature of epic proportions is the work of the talented composer Theodore Shapiro, I cannot give this score praise enough as it is not only bubbly, energetic, robust and melancholy, but is also filled to the rafters with so much thematic material that is fast paced and just so entertaining, without a doubt the music lends much to the movie and the composers timing with the musical full stops, commas and exclamation marks is uncanny and excellent. I also love the way in which the composer at times parodies the superhero sound that we seem to get served up in the serious movies of this type, not that I am saying CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS is not serious, of course it is, he is a superhero of the highest calibre and should be treated with the utmost respect. The score obviously contains its fair share of the lighter and more comedic sounds and trademarks, but it also has about it a more serious, yes serious sound, which works very well indeed within the context of the movie, adding drama, pathos and touches of slapstick if that is something that can be done musically. I must say I cannot recommend this enough, it’s just a non-stop rollercoaster ride of musical mayhem and magnificence that is overflowing with Bold Brass, stirring strings, rumbling percussion all of which combine to create a score that is faultlessly timed to hit the punchlines and accompany the action throughout, but it is such a great bit of fun too.

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The composer utilising Symphonic and synthetic, with the added presence of choir, which underlines the magnitude and importance of this great superhero. There is even a slice of the HALLELUJAH CHORUS utilized within the score, but not as we know it, well it is but it’s got something to do with Poopy-pants so enough said, Theodore Shapiro, is I think one of the most inventive and talented composers around at the moment, he seems to be able to turn his hand and his talents to any genre of film and is able to fashion music to suit any situation and scenario, GHOSTBUSTERS is a prime example, it is another score that is dramatic but also epic sounding in places and like CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS verges upon the operatic in certain areas, an animated movie with a score that is big, brassy and filled with a gigantic musical persona and did I mention there are kazoos too. Now who in their right mind can resist this, I am just off to the chest of draws to find the underpants and cape, DUN DUN DAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!! (and I leave you with that image). Seriously folks go get this score now.

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